Benefits and how to choose one

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is important for good health. Taking DHA in supplement form during pregnancy can help promote healthy fetal growth.

This article explores prenatal DHA supplements, the health benefits of DHA during pregnancy, its potential side effects and recommended doses, how to choose a quality supplement, other ways to receive DHA, and when to speak with a doctor. .

Prenatal DHA is a type of vitamin or supplement that contains the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Most DHA supplements come from:

  • Cod liver oil
  • krill oil
  • fish oil in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines
  • seaweed oil

In some cases, DHA pills or prenatal fluids contain only DHA. However, prenatal DHA or vitamin supplements may contain other nutrients as well, including:

All forms of omega-3 fatty acids are vital for health, especially during pregnancy. People need to consume omega-3 fatty acids through food or supplements because the body does not produce them naturally.

Omega-3 DHA is essential for the healthy development of the eyes, nervous system and brain.

A lot of research suggests a positive link between DHA consumption and visual and cognitive function. However, a recent 2019 The study found no difference in cognitive abilities or visual acuity in infants whose parents consumed DHA during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The researchers suggest that the DHA intake was not high enough to produce results, or that the test methods for checking cognitive and visual acuity were not sensitive enough.

Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy also appears to be reduce the risk premature birth.

In addition, older research links DHA to improved fertility and reproductive health of eggs.

The benefits of DHA supplementation may extend to pregnant women as well. A 2020 The review suggests that DHA may improve mood during late pregnancy and early postpartum.

People who are allergic or intolerant to seafood, tree nuts, soy, milk, or other food allergens should ensure that DHA products do not contain these allergens or go through a facility that processes them.

The side effects of taking DHA tend to be minor or mild, including:

In some cases, DHA can also interact negatively with supplements or medications, such as the blood thinner. warfarin.

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is no established recommendation regarding the dosage of DHA. However, experts recommend that pregnant women consume 200 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day. Plus, most prenatal supplements contain 200 mg of DHA.

In terms of food consumption, pregnant women should aim to eat at least two portions low-mercury shellfish or fish per week before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. One serving of fish contains 9 to 12 ounces (oz).

Most people living in the United States don’t get enough EPA and DHA. The levels of these fatty acids also decrease during pregnancy, as DHA is transferred to the fetus through the placenta. This means that people need to consume more of the substance in order to have sufficient levels on their own.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you do not consume more than 3 grams (g) per day EPA and DHA combined, including up to 2 g per day from dietary supplements. Consuming more DHA than this can cause bleeding problems and negatively impact the immune system.

It is important to choose high-quality prenatal DHA – low-quality, unverified products can contain toxins and contaminants. The most advanced refining systems remove almost all of these harmful compounds.

Therefore, it is important to choose products whose packaging indicates that a reputable third-party organization or laboratory has verified the quality and purity of the product in particles per trillion levels.

Many reputable organizations set standards that assess the quality and purity of fish oil products, such as the following:

  • Advice for responsible nutrition
  • European Pharmacopoeia
  • World Organization for Omega-3 EPA & DHA

Beware of products declared to exceed the standard maximum tolerances for harmful heavy metals, toxins and oxidation set by one or more of these organizations.

It’s also a good idea to choose products that have been proven in clinical trials to be safe and effective. A person can find this information on the brochure or packaging that accompanies the supplement or on the manufacturer’s website.

People who are on a vegetarian diet, have an allergy to seafood, or are unwilling to eat or buy seafood may consume products containing DHA from types of seaweed or algae. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish actually come from microalgae, which accumulate in the tissues of the fish that eat them.

Many products claim to contain plant sources of DHA.

However, non-marine plants don’t actually contain DHA – instead, they contain omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body converts to EHA and then to DHA in small quantities. Pregnant women should consume at least 1.4 g of ALA per day.

Since seafood can contain heavy metals and toxins, it may be safer for pregnant women to consume foods fortified with DHA, such as certain:

  • yogurts
  • milk
  • eggs
  • soy products
  • juice
  • infant formula

DHA is only naturally present in certain species of fish, seafood, chicken and eggs. Studies Show Benefits of Consuming Moderate Amounts of Seafood During Pregnancy tend to outweigh potential risks, especially if you consume high-quality, low-mercury seafood.

Safe seafood options for pregnant women and their average DHA dose per 3-ounce serving include:

  • farmed Atlantic salmon: 2.24 g
  • wild Atlantic salmon: 1.22 g
  • Atlantic herring: 0.94 g
  • canned sardines: 0.74 g
  • Atlantic mackerel: 0.58 g
  • canned pink salmon: 0.63 g
  • wild rainbow trout: 0.44 g
  • bar: 0.47 g
  • Eastern wild oysters: 0.23 g
  • canned light tuna: 0.27
  • flounder: 0.2–0.5 g
  • crab: 0.2–0.5 g
  • catfish: 0.02 mg or less
  • shrimp: 0.12 g
  • tilapia: 0.11 g
  • Pacific cod: 0.10 g
  • lobster: 0.07 g
  • scallops: 0.09 g

In addition, a cooked egg tends to contain approximately 0.03 g of DHA, while 3 oz of roast chicken breast typically contains 0.02 g of DHA.

Pregnant people should only consume one serving per week of seafood that contains moderate levels of mercury and other toxins. These types of seafood include:

  • albacore and yellowfin tuna
  • blue fish
  • carp
  • Patagonian toothfish
  • halibut
  • mahi mahi
  • snapper
  • pointed bar
  • sablefish
  • monkfish
  • redfish
  • consolidator
  • sea ​​trout

Pregnant people should also avoid seafood species with higher mercury levels, such as:

  • marlin
  • shark
  • swordfish
  • tile fish
  • bigeye tuna
  • king mackerel
  • orange roughy

Look for fish or fish products bearing the “Safe Catch” logo, which shows the seafood has met standards for purity and quality.

Pregnant people should also limit their intake of seafood that friends or family physically grab to one serving per week and not eat any other fish that week. Individuals should also avoid consuming seafood if there are any safety or health advisories in the area where a person caught the seafood.

Pregnant people can talk to their doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist about supplements or dietary changes they should make to keep them and their developing babies safe.

People taking prescription or over-the-counter medications or supplements should also consult a healthcare practitioner before taking DHA supplements. They can talk to a doctor if they cannot tolerate DHA supplements or foods high in DHA.

Getting enough DHA can be important for healthy fetal development. It can also have a positive impact on certain aspects of pregnancy and on the mood of a pregnant person.

People should choose DHA supplements that undergo independent testing and certification for the safety and purity of the product by a reputable organization.

To avoid negative interactions, individuals should consult a physician before taking DHA when also taking other medications or supplements.

Patricia J. Callender